by Gary Howes
Guns and Gunsmiths Editor
Growing up in Australia many years ago (too many to mention without feeling old) there were many opportunities for a teenager to go shooting. I still fondly remember the instances my father took me shooting, and for six years I was a member of the Australian Army Cadets where I was able to shoot everything from Lee Enfield .303s to Brens, Vickers and even a mortar on one occasion. Under strict supervision of course.
However, these are different times—even here in the USA—and there are now much stricter limits on what a young person can do with regards to firearms. That’s why I was pleased to receive an email from one of our Australian G&G subscribers, Garry Bennett, when I was in Australia earlier this month visiting family.
Garry had invited me to attend a high school shooting match that was being held in Melbourne, Victoria during my visit. Unfortunately time and distance didn’t allow me to accept, but I did ask Garry to send me some more information and photos about this shoot as I was curious to find out first hand just what kind of shooting sport is still available to the Australian youth.
Here is what he sent me (edited for length):
“As you no doubt gather shooting here is no where near as popular as it is in the States and we have much stricter rules on gun ownership and use. The government would love our sport to die out, I am sure that in regards to things like duck shooting they hope that if not many new people take up the activity and as the older shooters drop out it will have such a poor participation rate that there will be little protest if it is banned. There are States where it is presently banned and in my State it is a constant yearly battle to have a hunting season.
Sadly even some of our gun clubs have folded due to lack of members. I saw that the way to keep our sport active was to get as many new young members as possible interested in and active in our sport. I started up a Clay Target Shooting Club at my School (I forgot to mention that I am a school teacher). Thankfully my school board was supportive of the idea and then after some years I wanted to give my students an opportunity for a bit of a competitive shooting.
I started up an Inter School Clay Target competition. In comparison to what you probably have in the states the 150 or so students that I get at my event is fairly good. I do have students from my state; Victoria and 2 neighbouring States attend the one day event. For a bit of variety the event is a medley of DTL (Down-The-Line—a popular variation of Trap in several countries, including Australia—editor), Skeet and 5 Stand and the total score determines the winners.
We are actually hoping to have students from New Zealand come over next year. If there are any High School students from the States in the area on Thursday 2nd of May 2019 they would be welcome to attend. We were lucky to get one of our Federal Senators; Senator Bridget McKenzie attend our event this year to present prizes. The Senator is an active shooter and a great supporter of shooting, she is also our Federal Sports Minister. Sadly politicians in Australia that openly support our sport are as rare as rocking horse poop.
The activity has been successful in achieving some of my goals, probably close to 200 students have gained their shooters licence and a high percentage of them have maintained an interest after leaving school. A large number of parents have joined the club and got their licence and started shooting as well (students under 18 cannot have a gun, it has to be owned by a parent who has to get their own licence and it is a requirement that they are a member of a club to own a firearm) Two of my students have represented Australia in International Competition and 5 others have won State and National competitions. I have enclosed a few pictures of the event for your interest.”
Congratulations to Garry Bennett and others for taking the initiative to bring shooting sports to young Australians that might otherwise not have the opportunity. And also a thank you to Senator Bridget McKenzie (Minister for Sport, the Minister for Rural Health, and the Minister for Regional Communications and a cabinet member). It makes me proud to see fellow Australians like these that have not given up the fight for gun rights and still have the desire to see these values passed on to the younger generations.